Christine Gregoire casts her line at Westwood Lake on Sunday. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo anglers wonder if any more piranhas are biting

People fishing at Westwood Lake think there could be more piranhas in there

It’s not quite a piranha fishing derby up at Westwood Lake, but fishermen there now know they can expect the unexpected when they feel a tug on their line.

“It’s a beautiful day, I just decided to do some fishing, catch-and-release,” said Christine Gregoire at the lake this past weekend. “But it was pretty intriguing to hear about the tropical piranhas that are in there. If I catch one, I’ll try to rescue it.”

Gregoire was one of more than half a dozen anglers trying their luck at Westwood Lake on Sunday mid-day when the News Bulletin stopped by. Every person the Bulletin approached jokingly replied they were fishing for piranhas, so all had heard about last Tuesday’s surprise catch.

RELATED: Fishermen land piranhas in Nanaimo’s Westwood Lake

David Kingston said he was aiming for trout, but was hoping to reel in a red-bellied piranha. He was fishing at the rock bluffs where the piranha was caught, and had brought a bucket with him just in case.

“I want to keep it in the water, I want to keep it alive,” he said. “If one comes along, I’m going to try to save it and I’m going to put it in an aquarium.”

Kingston said he sometimes fishes from a rowboat, but when he fishes from shore, it’s from the rock bluffs. He catches rainbow trout and the odd bass, he said.

“Not all the time, but on good days, you might get a 22-inch, and I’ve heard there’s bigger ones in here,” he said. “I caught a two-pound bass years and years ago.”

He wasn’t too worried about any piranhas being in the lake, suggesting “they’re going to croak” in another month anyway, when the water gets colder, but Gregoire said she has concerns.

“It’s going to interrupt the eco-system, mess with the species that are already in there,” she said.

Gregoire said she has fish tanks at home and so if she caught a piranha, she would keep it alive and figure out what to do with it from there. She guessed that piranhas might aggressively go after a baited hook, but chasing a wild fish tale wasn’t really her reason for spending an afternoon at the lake.

“If I catch a fish, I do, if I don’t, I don’t,” she said. “It’s just all about the tranquility of being out here.”

The red-bellied piranha caught last Tuesday was the second one landed at Westwood Lake this year, according to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, and is thought to have been an unwanted pet. It was caught using yellow-orange PowerBait on a line and sinker. Anglers who catch introduced species are asked to make a report to the Forest, Land and Natural Resources office or call 1-877-952-7277.

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